Sackboy: A Big Adventure review for PS5, PS4

Platform: PS5
Also On: PS4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Sumo Sheffield
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

The LittleBigPlanet series was a magical, unique and creative gaming experience that was definitely ahead of its time. Media Molecule seemingly put their entire heart and soul into the design and development of the game, which was just oozing with charm thanks in part to Sackboy, the lovable, squishable hero of the franchise. The original PlayStation 3 title and its direct sequel were probably the most memorable of the releases, and while a bit more by-the-numbers the Sumo Digital developed LittleBigPlanet 3 for the PS4 was also quite good. (as was the PS Vita title) So here we are at the launch of the PlayStation 5 with Sackboy: A Big Adventure, a LittleBigPlanet spin-off of sorts that once again dips back into magical, unique properties that made the original Sackboy creation so special.

I very much adored LittleBigPlanet and probably earned a Platinum trophy in most of the releases, but I appreciated playing through the story and the user-created levels more than actually creating and sharing content of my own. The tools were great, and I consider myself to be creative generally, but I was in it mostly for the game itself. So being a more focused, story-driven 3D platformer, Sackboy: A Big Adventure sounds like it would be right up my alley. And it is.

Why does Sackboy, with help from the legendary Knitted Knights, need to embark on this ?Big Adventure? anyway? Well the annoyingly evil entity known as Vex decides to kidnap a number of Sackboy?s friends to help unleash a device known as the Topsy Turver to corrupt and twist the innocent, dreamy world the Sack-citizens know and love. Sackboy: A Big Adventure?s adventure revolves around an overhead map of Craftworld and takes place across several themed locations, each with many interconnected levels to explore and complete. Whatever the reason for the quest it?s nice to have Sackboy back in action with access to numerous gadgets, fun costumes, and creative, enjoyable level designs.

Sumo Sheffield has picked up the mantle this time around for A Big Adventure and the studio has certainly nailed what I loved about LittleBigPlanet in terms of game experience and expectations. The overall visual aesthetic, quality voice acting and musical choices are pitch perfect, for one. The levels are super creative and diverse and offer straight up platforming, clever puzzle solving, frantic action, timed challenges with leaderboards, interesting boss battles and more than enough variety to satisfy. It?s all very cute, cohesive and well designed, from the UI through the sound effects, and everything in between.

The gameplay in Sackboy: A Big Adventure has shifted mostly to an overhead 3D perspective with a locked point of view instead of the mostly traditional 2.5D side-scrolling style found in LittleBigPlanet. The camera cinematically swings around and shifts when it needs to, although otherwise it?s not under a player?s direct control. These choices make sense since one of the best features of LittleBigPlanet and also Sackboy: A Big Adventure is the drop-in, drop-out cooperative gameplay for up to 4 players. Unfortunately the co-op is local only for now, although the online feature is scheduled to launch before the end of the year.

Sackboy?s big quest has him working through a variety of levels while navigating the environments in search of prize bubbles, stickers and finishing steps required to progress to the end goal and usually a big bad boss. There are challenging and dangerous obstacles throughout, especially of the evil enemy variety that Sackboy can dispatch of with a punch, a spin attack, a toss of an object or a traditional stomp? and that?s not including a selection of level-specific gadgets/weapons with their own techniques. The base platforming gameplay loop is solid and satisfying, and there are more than a few optional goals and hidden areas to track down in each level and even on the world map itself. The levels are just the right length to encourage players to dive back in upon completion in an effort to achieve 100%. As a completionist, you better believe I made sure to do so.

Thanks to the wonderful attention to detail by Sumo, the crafty, cartoon-like visuals are a delight to see in person running on a PlayStation 5 on a 4K display at 60fps. Everything is super animated and very polished from lush jungles environments and soggy underwater worlds, to crunchy snow-covered mountains and more. The variety of craft-like materials that the world and characters are constructed of are realistically rendered, especially with the high quality lighting and shading techniques utilized by the engine, and just an absolute joy to interact with. Speaking of interacting, the DualSense controller?s haptics are put to very good use to mimic the feel of different surfaces when traversing levels, and the adaptive triggers provide for appropriate feedback when grabbing and releasing textured surfaces and objects.

The audio design in Sackboy: A Big Adventure was an unexpected delight as well with surprisingly effective 3D audio especially in conjunction with the DualSense speaker. As with LittleBigPlanet, Sackboy relies on a very interesting selection of music for its soundtrack, many of it licensed or covers, samples and remixes of recognizable tunes. There are a few ?musical? levels that are built around specific songs in fun and creative ways that are not worth spoiling here, but trust me, they will put a smile on any player?s face.

The only thing really worth dinging Sackboy: A Big Adventure over is the lack of online co-op at launch since it was a feature that was available with LittleBigPlanet a couple of console generations ago. There are some optional levels that require more than one player, and others that are just more fun tackling with additional players so having the ability to team up with online friends would have been nice. The local/offline co-op is still fun for now and Sony advised us that online with cross generation play will go live before the end of 2020 and hopefully that will be the case.

With Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon?s Souls dominating the PS5?s launch lineup this season it would be very easy to overlook Sackboy: A Big Adventure. I?m here to try to make sure that doesn?t happen, as it satisfies that family friendly, co-operative platforming adventure quota, and it?s definitely a colorful, creative and enjoyable next-generation adventure worth taking.

Sony Interactive Entertainment provided us with a Sackboy: A Big Adventure PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-